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Patrese returns to the fast lane with Honda 10 Sep 2008

Former Formula One driver Riccardo Patrese, Jerez, Spain, 9 September, 2008. © Honda Former Formula One driver Riccardo Patrese in the Honda RA107, Jerez, Spain, 9 September, 2008. © Honda Former Formula One driver Riccardo Patrese in the Honda RA107, Jerez, Spain, 9 September, 2008. © Honda Former Formula One driver Riccardo Patrese examines the Honda RA107 steering wheel, ahead of his guest drive, Jerez, Spain, 9 September, 2008. © Honda

Former driver Riccardo Patrese returned to Formula One racing for the first time in 15 years on Tuesday, as he took charge of a Honda RA107 at the Spanish circuit of Jerez. Patrese, who made 256 Grands Prix starts during his F1 career, covered five runs in the Japanese team’s car, recording a best time of 1m 30.210s.

"After 15 years out of Formula One, it was a dream come true and unbelievable to rediscover the speed of a Formula One car again,” said the Italian. “I was able to get accustomed pretty quickly and found that my driving style did not need to change too much to adapt to a modern car. The speed was a bit of a surprise on the first couple of laps but at the end I felt very comfortable, although I'm sure my neck will ache a little bit tonight after the G forces.

“The whole experience has been an absolute pleasure and I would like to thank the Honda Racing F1 Team for giving me this feeling back and allowing me the opportunity to drive a really fast car again! It's good to know that at my age, I can still drive quickly and push the limits. I just wish that I could have had more time in the car to improve my lap time. Hopefully they'll give me another chance sometime!"

Patrese joined Honda in Jerez on Monday for a seat fitting and engineering briefing. He also conducted several reconnaissance laps of the 4.428 km Spanish circuit in a road car with one of the team's engineers to familiarise himself with the track, before taking charge of the Formula One car on Tuesday morning.

Honda CEO Nick Fry added: “We are delighted to have been able to arrange this opportunity for Riccardo to drive the RA107, the first time that he has been back in a
Honda Formula One car since the final race of the 1987 season where he raced for Williams-Honda in Adelaide.

“Riccardo adapted very well to the car today and there was plenty for him to get to grips with as Formula One has advanced so rapidly since his final race in 1993 and continues to do so with the introduction of new environmental technologies. Left foot braking, grooved tyres and a steering-wheel mounted clutch paddle were all new for Riccardo today, and his fastest lap time was very respectable considering that he was using demonstration tyres and a 2007 car.

"The team thoroughly enjoyed working with Riccardo today and we are delighted to have made his dream of returning to Formula One for a day come true!”

Patrese won six Grands Prix and took a further 31 podiums during his 17 years competing in the sport and is now a Formula One commentator for Italian television.